Real Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

If you are my friend and you live in D.C. and you have a baby or surgery, this is what I bring to your house to say “welcome baby” or “get well soon.” I have lost count of how many times I’ve made this and brought it to someone’s house. I’ve also made it for my own family for birthday parties and group get-togethers. It’s comfort food at its best. Children and adults love it. And you will, too. Make no mistake – this is a splurge, but it’s well worth it.

  • 1 pound macaroni
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (5 slices bread, crusts removed)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook the macaroni according to package directions for al dente, about 7 minutes or so. Drizzle a little olive oil into the water to prevent sticking, then drain.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Do not let it come to a boil. Keep it warm while you work on the sauce. In another saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for a couple minutes, then add the hot milk and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses, kosher salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cooked macaroni. Pour into a baking dish.
  • Place the sliced tomatoes evenly on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine them with the fresh breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of the tomatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is golden and the sides are bubbly. Serve hot.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. I make an “adult” version of this using gruyere instead of the mild cheddar. This is what Ina’s original recipe calls for. This is the rated “G” version for kids. The gruyere can be a little strong for young palates.
  • 2. I’ve tried using ready made breadcrumbs for this. Don’t do it. First, the amount listed will be too much since fresh breadcrumbs are light and fluffy. If you must use dry breadcrumbs, cut the amount back to about 1/2 – 3/4 cup or you will have too much breadcrumb.
  • 3. The nice thing about the tomatoes on top is that you can easily work around them for fussy kids. More for the adults!

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

3 responses to “Real Mac and Cheese”

  1. Karla says:

    Have you frozen this Mac and Cheese? Sometimes when bringing over a meal to someone it’s nice to give them something that they have on deck in the freezer. Same goes for having some back up meals at our home. I was wondering if it would work O.K. with the tomatoes and especially the breadcrumbs on top. I did make this fresh with cubed ham for our family a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit!

    • Alicia says:

      Yes, I have. It freezes beautifully. I do not freeze it with the tomatoes and breadcrumbs. I’d recommend freezing it right after the last step, in which you add the tomato slices. When it’s time to bake it, just top it with the tomatoes and breadcrumbs, then bake. If baking directly from the freezer, allow about an hour and 15 minutes. If thawing first, about 35-40 minutes should do the trick.

      • Karla says:

        Thanks for replying! That is what I was thinking but thought it might be best to ask the expert! Love your site.

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